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As US Role in Afghanistan Winds Down, Kashmir Winds Up


As the Western military role in Afghanistan winds down, Pakistani militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba are turning their focus to India. The border between India and Pakistan in Kashmir has been unusually violent in the past few weeks, and an attempted attack on the Indian consulate in Jalalabad last week was a “message from the ISI” of more to come, an Indian security official told Reuters. These signs, Reuters says, suggest that the recently cordial relationship between the two nuclear-armed countries could turn frigid:

At the core of that uncertainty is the pullback of militants from Afghanistan as U.S. forces head home. Hafiz Sayeed, founder of the LeT, has left no doubt that India’s side of Kashmir will become a target, telling an Indian weekly recently: ‘Full-scale armed Jihad (holy war) will begin soon in Kashmir after American forces withdraw from Afghanistan’.

In Afghanistan, too, India and Pakistan are waging a proxy war. Pakistan “sees India’s expansive diplomacy in Afghanistan as a ploy to disrupt it from the rear as it battles its own deadly Islamist militancy and separatist forces. Vying for influence in a post-2014 Afghanistan, it worries about India’s assistance to the Afghan army, heightening a sense of encirclement.” India fears that Pakistani militants will turn their attention on Kashmir and Indian targets in Afghanistan (like the Jalalabad consulate) as soon as international troops withdraw.

All this is happening at a tense time in Kashmir, where India and Pakistan have fought several wars, and which Pakistani militants are hell-bent on liberating from Indian rule. Last Friday, soldiers on both sides of the heavily militarized border traded 7,000 rounds of mortar and gunfire. Security is tight. Both countries are in the midst of a military and naval buildup. “What should worry people in South Asia and beyond,” warns former South Asia correspondent Maya MacDonald, “is that the relative calm in India-Pakistan relations during the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan may turn out to have been the exception rather than the rule…. [T]here is almost no contingency planning for a crisis, either within South Asia or outside.”

[An Indian army soldier stands guard behind a barbed-wire barricade during curfew in Jammu on August 12, 2013. Photo courtesy of Getty Images]

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  • USNK2

    Kashmir is as much a watershed war as a religious one.
    I await the Afghans deciding it is time to retake Peshawar, which has been a festering sore for Afghans for 200 years.

    • Andrew Allison

      I’m no expert on Kashmir, but paints a rather more complex picture than do you, suggesting that the dispute is territorial, with Pakistan citing majority Muslim population as the basis of its claim. Failed as the State of Pakistan so obviously is, the idea of the Afghans deciding to retake Peshawar seems a little far-fetched to me, but I’d be happy to be educated on the topic.

      • USNK2

        Andrew: I do not have a handy reference on the watershed issue on Kashmir, but it seems to be why India keeps refusing to give their part up.
        As for Peshawar? William Dalrymple’s “Return of a King” is a new history of the First Anglo-Afghan War 1838-42.
        I have been studying the history of what is now Af-Pak-India for ten years, but Dalrymple puts Peshawar in perspective. In 1838, Rajit Singh had consolidated his Sikh ’empire’ in the Punjab, and that included Peshawar, which the Afghans wanted back.
        You can also study the Constable HandAtlas of India 1893

        • Andrew Allison

          Thank you for your courteous and informative reply. I appreciate and understand the historical perspective, but must ask how practicable it would be for Afghanistan to seize territory from Pakistan?

          • USNK2

            The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is the Durand Line, drawn after the Second Anglo-Afghan War to divide the Pashtun tribes that the British could not defeat.
            Afghanistan never really accepted this as the official border.
            In any case, my understanding is that more than three million Afghan refugees still live on the Pakistan side of that border, so I guess history will have to wait and see if Pashtunistan ever emerges as the ‘solution’.
            In the meantime, the Taliban seems to be Pakistan’s way to keep India from influence in Kabul.

            btw, better to find a copy of the Constable HandAtlas of India in a college library, to see why Kashmir is about the watershed. That google edition is unreadable.

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